The 10 Best College Basketball Coaches Under 40 Years Old
When the college basketball season begins next season, the gold standard of young coaches will no longer be around.
That’s because Brad Stevens won’t be calmly pacing the sidelines at Hinkle Fieldhouse for the Butler Bulldogs. Instead, the 36-year-old Stevens will be leading the Boston Celtics and devising ways to stop LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
While Stevens was regarded as the best young coach in college basketball, he certainly wasn’t the only talented coach. There are a number of coaches under the age of 40 who have already achieved great success.
The following list looks at the 10 best coaches in college basketball under the age of 40. The list considers team success and accounts for the state of the program each coach inherited.
10. Kevin Willard: Seton Hall
Kevin Willard appeared to be one of the rising young coaches in the college game, but he’s quickly slipping down this list.
When Willard took over the Iona program in 2007, the Gaels had gone 2-28 in the previous season. In his final season in 2010, he led Iona to a 21-10 record.
Willard then moved on to Seton Hall and it looked like he would continue to build on his success. He took the Pirates to the second round of the NIT in his second season and the program appeared to be getting back on track.
Unfortunately for Willard, Seton Hall took a step back last season, finishing with a 3-15 record in the Big East. The coach is pointing toward a promising recruiting class that can serve as a strong foundation for the future. Fans, however, will grow restless with another poor season in the Big East.
9. Archie Miller: Dayton
Archie Miller has only been a head coach for two seasons, but he’s already well-respected and appears to have a very bright future.
With his brother, Sean, as the head coach at Arizona and his father, John, as a decorated high school coach in Pennsylvania, it’s clear coaching runs in the blood in the Miller family.
Archie Miller gained experience working as an assistant at high-profile programs such as Ohio State, Arizona and N.C. State. He’s already guided the Flyers to 37 wins during his first two years.
He took over a program that was in good position before Brian Gregory moved on to become the head coach at Georgia Tech, and the hope is that Miller will be able to sustain that success and eventually carry the Flyers to the next level.
8. Mitch Henderson: Princeton
Mitch Henderson’s success at Princeton over the past two years has been overshadowed by Tommy Amaker at Harvard, but it doesn’t make Henderson’s accomplishments any less impressive.
The 38-year-old former Princeton basketball player took over the program in 2011 after spending 11 seasons as an assistant coach at Northwestern.
Princeton was already in good shape when Henderson took over because of the success of former head coach Sydney Johnson. Henderson has maintained that high standard of play.
The Tigers finished one game behind Harvard in the standings for the past two years, and Princeton has been close to winning the league as the champion has been determined in the final weekend in each of those seasons. The Ivy League champion is determined by regular season record as there is no conference tournament.
Henderson appears to be a great fit as he continues to guide his alma mater. He could be the latest in a long line of great coaches from Princeton.
7. Michael White: Louisiana Tech
Michael White led Louisiana Tech to 27 wins last season, which was the most in any season since Karl Malone was a Bulldog in 1985.
Through his two seasons as the head coach of the Bulldogs, Michael White has created a system that is built on full-court pressure defense and capitalizes on superior depth from his bench. For a coach with an SEC background, it appears White has brought the “40 Minutes of Hell” philosophy to the WAC.
Last season, White guided the program to its first AP Top 25 ranking in the past 28 years and next season could be even better as last season’s squad only featured two seniors.
If Louisiana Tech has more success in the 2013-14 season and can reach the NCAA tournament, White will be an attractive candidate for openings around the country.
6. Andy Toole: Robert Morris
Andy Toole is the youngest coach on this list and he’s already making quite a name for himself.
Robert Morris fans know what a great coach Toole is after watching him lead the Colonials to a 68-36 record over the past three seasons, but the entire country learned about Toole after Robert Morris upset Kentucky in the opening round of the N.I.T. this past season.
Toole took over a program that had reached the NCAA tournament two consecutive years prior to his arrival and he has kept the Colonials at the top of the Northeast Conference.
He recently signed a contract extension that will keep him at Robert Morris through the 2017-18 season, but it will be interesting to see if that contract holds up when other high-profile schools come calling.
5. Steve Prohm: Murray State
Steve Prohm has only been a head coach for two seasons. In that short amount of time, he’s already accumulated 52 wins.
Much of that success can be attributed to the fact that he had Isaiah Canaan, one of the best guards in the country, on his squad, but any coach needs great players in order to win.
Before becoming the head coach at Murray State in 2011, Prohm had over a decade of experience working as an assistant coach and served under Billy Kennedy before Kennedy left Murray State to be the head coach at Texas A&M.
Kennedy is responsible for the 2013 senior class that had so much success at Murray State, including two trips to the NCAA tournament, but Prohm now has the opportunity to show he can continue to carry the torch for the Racers.
4. Sydney Johnson: Fairfield
Sydney Johnson is one of the best coaches in America that no one knows about.
He joined the Fairfield program in 2011 after spending four seasons at Princeton, where he helped turn the program around and lead the Tigers to an Ivy League Championship and NCAA Tournament berth in 2011. It was this rebuilding job that helped him land the head coaching position at Fairfield.
Despite facing difficult challenges with recruiting, Johnson has continued to succeed while leading the Stags. He has a 41-30 record through his first two seasons at Fairfield, and the program appears to be on the rise in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
With a 107-83 record through six seasons as a head coach, it’s time for Johnson to receive the praise he’s due.
3. Bryce Drew: Valparaiso
If you only remember Bryce Drew because of the shot he hit for Valparaiso to upset Ole Miss in the 1998 NCAA tournament, you’re missing what Drew is now doing for his alma mater.
Drew took over the program after his father, Homer, retired in 2012 and he has guided the Valparaiso program to two consecutive Horizon League Regular Season championships.
Last season, he also led the Crusaders to the tournament championship, which earned Valparaiso its first berth in the NCAA tournament since 2004.
For a guy who was already the most famous player in the history of the Valpo program, Bryce Drew continues to build on his great legacy.
2. Josh Pastner: Memphis
Josh Pastner appears to be the complete package as a promising young head coach. He’s a great recruiter who is well-spoken and has a 106-34 record through his first four seasons at Memphis.
The only things missing on Pastner’s resume are some signature wins, which he will get plenty of opportunities for this season with conference games against Louisville, Connecticut and Cincinnati.
Memphis is committed to Pastner for the long-term and is counting on him to continue to grow, which is why the school signed him to a contract extension this past March.
1. Shaka Smart: VCU
Shaka Smart isn’t one of the best young coaches in college basketball. He’s simply one of the best coaches in college basketball.
Smart’s style of play and energy makes him one of the most exciting coaches in the game. His VCU program has generated a buzz that has made it a nationally-known team.
Jeff Capel and Anthony Grant established the foundation at VCU before Shaka Smart took over in 2009, but he has taken the program to a new level of success. During his four years as head coach, Smart has guided the Rams to a CBI Championship, Final Four, and two appearances in the Round of 32 in the NCAA tournament.
And with the long-term contract extension Smart signed this past spring, he appears to be committed to leading VCU into the future.
Who are some of the other best young coaches in college basketball? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
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